The Science of Storytelling

We are storytellers. 

From the earliest humans who painted on cave walls, to the Egyptians who sent their pharaohs into the afterlife with hieroglyphics, to the kids on the way to the newest movie at the metroplex, we have an affinity for stories which transcends all time periods, cultures, races, and religions.  The ‘art’ of storytelling is not just for enjoyment.  There are theories that, in fact, storytelling actually may have been more important in the evolution of humans than opposable thumbs.

Really?  How could that be?  According to Lisa Cron in her great book, Wired for Story, “opposable thumbs let us hang on; story told us what to hang on to.”  Humans are the only species on earth which can imagine the future and, through planning, prepare for it.  We can anticipate and outcome – a successful hunt, the end of a long journey, even death itself – and understand the experience through other people’s knowledge.  Story gives us that edge.

In fact, “the pleasure we derive from a tale well told is nature’s way of seducing us into paying attention to it.  In other words, we’re wired to turn to story to teach us the way of the world.”  We crave story to understand and deal with what is happening around us.

Like most writers – and readers – I love story.  I’ve always loved story.  Listening to story and making up my own stories gives me comfort in the crazy world we live in.  And, in fact, the way I tell a story and the types of stories I read ultimately define me as me, as opposed to being you.  We each are the sum of our experiences, the collections of what we have been, the hope of what we will be.  The stories we resonate with become part of who we are.

Why do you like the stories you like?  What story themes do you find yourself drawn to?  Do you love the tear-jerkers?  Or the funny ones?  Or stories that make you shiver in the night?

Or, all of the above?

Oh, and opposable thumbs are nice too.




Filed under A Writer's Life, Craft, Marketing & Publicity, opposable thumb, Story

4 responses to “The Science of Storytelling

  1. I love reading stories that resonates with my life experiences. Writing my on stories allows me to fulfill my life’s purpose, which it to provide inspiration to others. This isn’t always easy to do because I write mostly fiction, but in every one of my stories I always include a theme, even if it’s minor, that deals with positivity.

    I enjoyed reading your post. Not only did I laugh, I learned something new also.


  2. I have always loved stories. My grandmama wove stories of her youth and Mama’s childhood. I’m a sucker for a story, what can I can?


  3. Jackie Rod

    Thanks for adding to our socialization today. Stories have always been a source of satisfaction–at dinner time, bedtime, the beach, or sitting at the computer. I love the words, “Let me tell you a story.”


  4. Great blog. I learned storytelling from my maternal grandmother’s family and from my father…I didn’t realize it at the time, but listening to their tales influenced me in powerful ways. Storytelling is an art–and a science. Thank goodness I had good examples to learn from.


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